Teaching business

Sweden will be one of the world's most attractive countries to invest in and Europe's most competitive economy. That's the grand vision of Leif Pagrotsky and Thomas Östros, which they presented at the launch of a new strategy for innovation. The strategy has been designed to encourage increased growth.

Compared to other countries, Sweden offers good conditions for enterprise and innovation, but the number of new businesses is nevertheless low. Business minister Pagrotsky believes the paradox is partly due to the attitude of Swedes towards enterprise: “We have a Lutheran attitude, which makes life difficult for us,” he told Tuesday’s SvD.

Swedish business leaders are apparently critical and negative. “When Swedish business leaders claim that running a company is hellish, the climate doesn’t get any better.”

The fifty page report entitled ‘Innovative Sweden – a strategy for growth by renewal’ embraces education, research and partnership between the public and private sectors. On a more positive note than his government colleague, education minister Östros was keen to point out the importance of Sweden’s highly rated education system.

“We’ll sharpen interest in maths and promote life-long learning. Technology and medicine will be prioritised. Our businesses need a highly educated work-force,” he enthused.

Let’s hope the wind isn’t completely knocked out of Östros’s sails by the letter which has no doubt by now landed on his desk from irate education officials in Eskilstuna. Monday’s SvD reported that the letter, which was originally published in the town’s local paper and was signed by the chairman of the education board and the head of the education department, complained that newly graduated teachers from Mälardalen college couldn’t teach pupils how to read and write.

Ove Johansson, an education official in Eskilstuna, commented: “It’s very poor when teachers are supposed to teach kids how to read and haven’t a clue how to go about it.”

Teachers and politicians all agree that the new staff from Mälardalen can’t teach children with literacy problems. Extra resources have to be used to make up for the teachers’ incompetence. They (that’s the new teachers, not the kids) will be receiving remedial classes in the teaching of literacy from experienced staff in the Autumn.

A more novel subject which could find itself on the Swedish curriculum in the future is IT security. The suggestion, which Thomas Östros and Leif Pagrotsky would both undoubtedly approve of, is made in a government report looking at the devastating effects of computer viruses.

In May, many organisations were infected by the so-called Sasser worm, which attacked computer networks using the Windows 2000 and Windows XP operating systems. Patient notes were affected throughout the health sector and Lund University Hospital had to divert patients to Malmö. Last week also saw a Dane become the first Scandinavian customer of an internet bank to have his account emptied by a hacker.

Anders Svärd has been investigating IT security in society for the government for two years and is expected to submit his report next May. He believes that IT security should be part of compulsory education.

“This is so new that few parents know what their children are up to. Young people know it’s wrong to steal in a shop, but don’t know how serious it is to hack into somebody else’s computer. More people must learn how to protect their computers. Everybody who has a computer and is online has an individual responsibility.”